Guest blog: School meals rules and regulations from the USDA

A loyal reader (who wants to remain anonymous) compiled a terrific list of links for more information about school lunch from the USDA. If you want to learn more about school lunch, feel free to peruse this information. S/he looked it up because s/he felt it was important that I know more specifics about the policies. I agreed and thought why don’t we all learn together. I learned a lot from reviewing this information:
The basic information from the USDA:
Eligibility guidance for School Meals (policy for determining and verifying eligibility for free/reduced price meals)
Food buying guide (purchasing for school meal programs, also includes information about the meal planning patterns and other resources)
Menu planner for school meals (different menu planning options, nutrient analysis, keeping menu planning records)
also, a complete 10 hour curriculum for meal planning
Offer vs. serve regulations (information about the offer vs. serve regulations – in other words, the regulation that allows students to decline some food items)
Recipes for school meals (also includes basics meal planning patterns)
School Lunch Fact Sheet (short Q &A fact sheet)
S/he was unable to find a link to explain the funding for school meals. But added that basically funding is provided on a reimbursement basis. The school meal programs don’t get the funds “up front”. That means that the school meal program must fulfill all the obligations and regulations such as in the links above, serving an eligible meal (following all regulations as to planning, serving sizes and foods, correctly following Offer vs serve, if used, and so on) to an eligible student (enrolled in the school, any free/reduced applications properly done and so on), plus other administrative functions (such as record keeping). Monthly, the claim for reimbursement is sent to the state (if the state also contributes some funds) and federal governments. Then, based on the number of meals served, the reimbursement is paid.
Links with new, updated information:
Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report with suggestions to revise meal planning patterns. (complete 2010 report – warning: it’s 395 pgs!)
A summary of the above report
IOM website’s info about report:
And the guest blogger recommends reading the book “Free for All – Fixing School Food in America” by Janet Poppendieck for more information about school lunch policy:
Per the guest blogger, these links address the food and some of the financial considerations(and even this doesn’t cover everything – there’s more – things like how food allergies and special needs must be handled and so on) . The food and menu are a big part of school meals (obviously), yet even all this doesn’t even start to address the crowded cafeterias, the too short mealtimes, the lack of recess, education about nutrition, the food system and respect for the food and all the other areas that impact meals/food, at school and elsewhere.
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7 thoughts on “Guest blog: School meals rules and regulations from the USDA

  1. Thank you (and the anonymous reader) for all of this information! It is definitely worth looking through.

  2. S/he looked it up because s/he felt it was important that I know more specifics about the policies.

  3. Mrs. Q, this is awesome! Thanks for posting it.

    Many thanks also to the anonymous reader who pulled this together. It definitely will be very useful and I, for one, really appreciate your efforts.

  4. Wonderful! I have most of these links but having them all in one place like this is invaluable. Thanks to your guest blogger for taking the time. And I second the recommendation of Janet Poppendieck's book. I am a big fan of her and the boo — she even guest blogged on The Lunch Tray a while back

  5. This information has put a research idea into my head (I don't have time to look it up, but perhaps someone does, or perhaps it's already been done).

    The media has been reporting about the ordinance in L.A. that prohibits fast food companies from including a toy in kids meals unless certain guidelines (total calories, sodium, fat) are met.

    Does anyone know if the school lunches in L.A. are meeting the criteria that fast food companies have been asked to meet? (I would hypothesize that they do not, but it would be interesting to know).

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